MANP's Visit to Lewiston - May 2024

Posted By: Jennifer Hutchins MANP News,

The Board and staff at the Maine Association of Nonprofits extend our gratitude to Lewiston’s nonprofit community! In May, we traveled to Maine’s second largest city to connect with the dedicated people who support the region in a myriad of ways.

For example, we heard from leaders at SeniorPlus, New Mainers Public Health Initiative, the Sewall Foundation and the Maine Resiliency Center about their challenges and priorities, and left inspired by the obvious strength and hope that arises when people come together to help their neighbors. Here are just a few learnings from our visit:

  • Research shows that communities often experience significant negative impact on their economies for months following a mass shooting, said Danielle Parent, Director of the Maine Resiliency Center, operated by Community Concepts. The Center was created immediately following the mass casualty event on October 26, 2023. Like others across the nation that are funded by the Department of Justice, they provide support and counseling to anyone impacted by the shootings.
  • Federal funding for resiliency centers ends before the healing is complete. The tangible benefits of these centers bringing people together to move forward through unfathomable violence is yet to be fully studied, but anecdotally clear from our visit with Danielle. Figuring out how to continue funding and fostering safe, inclusive, community-centric spaces is the emerging challenge, and opportunity.
  • Connecting Maine’s workforce dots is a need in every sector of our economy. The top challenge for SeniorsPlus, supporting older adults and adults with disabilities in Western Maine since 1972, is finding and retaining staff, said President and CEO Betsy Sawyer-Manter. At the same time, Hibo Omer, executive director of New Mainers Public Health Initiative, works with skilled professionals who have recently immigrated to Maine and are unable to find jobs that maximize their abilities due to qualifications restrictions.
  • Philanthropy can facilitate collaboration by funding a community-systems approach. Recently, the Sewall Foundation and other philanthropic partners have been supporting a group of 80+ organizations exploring ways to boost long-term resilience for the Lewiston/Auburn region, said Lauress Lawrence, Community and Equity Learning Partner. This systems approach elevates the focus from individual organizations to a collective systemic level that ultimately expands capacity across the community and advances shared goals.

Listening to and learning from Lewiston’s nonprofits has been a striking reminder of the unique pressures facing those who tackle society’s most daunting issues. Showing up and supporting these organizations with our actions, words and wallets is imperative. It’s not about charity for others, it’s about developing resilience for everyone. We are all in this together.